Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Conciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Completed Three More Litko Buildings

    Posted By on February 22, 2015

    Three new Litko buildings

    Three new Litko buildings

    For several months I have been working on these three Litko buildings that I bought almost a year ago.  I had assembled them and prepared them for my daughter to paint — she likes to paint terrain pieces — but then they languished for several months.  Finally in the last three weeks I finished them off.

    Closeup of the Main Street Food Store

    Closeup of the Main Street Food Store

    These buildings will supplement my pulp city that has been featured in previous postings to my blog.

    Closeup of the Mens' Clothiers

    Closeup of the Mens' Clothiers

    I know that MDF buildings are all the rage these days.  Litko began making them before they became popular.  Unlike 4Ground and some of the other manufacturers, the Litko buildings are not pre-painted.  They also don’t feature the tab and slot construction.  For pulp games they are excellent, and I enjoy painting them.

    Closeup of the Putnam County Record newspaper building

    Closeup of the Putnam County Record newspaper building

    This latest batch of 6 buildings from Litko (the three pictured in this post and three others in a previous post) have laser cut clear plastic pieces to be glued behind the window and door frames.  You wouldn’t think that the clear plastic would make a difference compared to simple openings for the windows, but they have a really nice look on the table.

    Closeup of the pediment above the clothier

    Closeup of the pediment above the clothier

    The shape of this pediment was crying out for something more ornate than simple painting.  I used a variety of images I found on the Web to assemble this pediment.  I think the effect is pretty good.

    Northwest Frontier by GASLIGHT

    Posted By on February 9, 2015

    The initial setup with the Pathans springing their ambush on the Brits

    The initial setup with the Pathans springing their ambush on the Brits

    Yesterday I hosted a GASLIGHT game in my basement / war room.  One of the cadets who was in the wargaming club when I was teaching at West Point, Chase, is now in the State Department and getting ready to head to his first posting in Venezuela.  I wanted to have him over one last time before he deploys, and I invited a number of the HAWKs who would have met Chase when I was helping out with their gaming convention, PointCon.  I also invited another of the cadets from that same period, Colin.  Both Chase and Colin left the army as combat decorated captains.  I also invited Nick, who is the son of one of my high school buddies, and is near Ft. Meade on a co-op from school.  Finally, many of the HAWKs attended:  Dave, Greg, Eric, and Chris on the Brit side and Bill, Rob, and Duncan on the Pathan side.

    The battle heats up around the hill where the Brits chose to anchor their defense

    The battle heats up around the hill where the Brits chose to anchor their defense

    In a previous convention scenario, a British punitive expedition had succeeded in reducing Wee Willie Winkie from the clutches of the evil Pasha Chrismajadeen.  In this scenario, the expedition is taking her back to their fort when they are ambushed by the Pasha’s men.  Typical in my Northwest Frontier by GASLIGHT games is that the Russians supply some “advisors” in the form of two units of infantry and several steam-powered vehicles.

    Colin and Chase move their forces

    Colin and Chase move their forces

    Dave had a couple good volleys with the British infantry that neutralized the Russian steam lorry, but Borris “the Bear” re-manned the battling gun, inflicting some damage on the British and eventually shooting down the Female Hussars’ helicopter.  Dave charged forward with his light tank, running over a couple of Chase’s Russian infantrymen, but the Russians climbed aboard the vehicle and eventually subdued it. Meanwhile Colin’s slow-footed Pathans took their time joining the battle, eventually occupying a couple of hills.

    Russians close assaulting a British light tank.

    Russians close assaulting a British light tank.

    Another view of the main hill as the Female Hussars join the fight in force.

    Another view of the main hill as the Female Hussars join the fight in force

    The British plan was to create a perimeter defense and keep Winkie far from the fight.  They anchored their defense on this central hill, where several groups of Sikhs and the Female Hussars held against repeated assaults.  In the picture above you can see three infantrymen near a timber-clad Russian / Pathan tank.  They had once been the crew of a tricycle mounting a cannon.  When the chain broke, Eric spiked the gun and ran these three men forward.  They eventually close assaulted that timber-clad near them in the picture, but were eventually cleaned off by supporting Pathans.

    Brigadier Smythe rode in and out of the Pathans, bravely holding them off, but eventually he succumbed to numbers.  Victoria Hawkes on horseback rode out ahead of her unit of Female Hussars to engage in melee herself.  She rolled a 20 and fell off her horse.  When she regained her footing, she rolled another 20 and fell again.  (We decided that she was not expecting a battle today and was wearing high-heeled shoes, which don’t work well in desert combat.)  By the end of the fight, Victoria Hawkes had been killed.

    Victoria Hawkes didn't survive the fight...

    Victoria Hawkes didn't survive the fight...

    While I didn’t get any pictures of that side of the table, on the British left, Chris and his Punjab units fought bravely against Duncan’s and Rob’s Pathans.  Chris also close-assaulted a timber-clad tank.  There was lots of carnage on that side of the table.

    The safety of Winkie was never in question.  By the end he was not only being protected by Captain Caruthers, but a unit of Highlanders was posted nearby.  While the Pathans had most of their timer-clad tanks, most of their infantry had been wiped out.  The British took many casualties themselves, but it was a clear British victory.

    I think everyone had a good time — even Eric who failed his player morale and spiked his own cannon on the second turn of the game.  We followed this harrowing battle with chili dogs and post-game kibitzing.  All in all, it was a good time, and it was good to see Chase, Colin, Greg, and Nick again.

    This makes my tenth miniatures game of the year.  I am on track to meet my fifty game goal.

     

    Moving Fire in G.A.M.E.R.

    Posted By on February 2, 2015

    This past weekend we played two games using my under-development G.A.M.E.R. system.  Those games gave me a chance to try out some ideas I’ve been kicking around regarding moving fire.  As the game is currently written, figures may either move or fire when they activate, but there is no moving fire.  I have been struggling with the best way to represent the increased firepower afforded to US squads by the M-1 Garand vs. every other army’s bolt-action rifles.

    When I was a cadet at West Point, one of the history instructors showed us a film he made as part of his master’s thesis.  It involved him dressing up a full US and German squad with their organic weapons (including BARs and MG-42).  He then took them onto a known distance range and had them engage targets for a fixed period of time.  As I recall he even used the same guys for both squads to control for the possibility of better marksmen in one group or the other.  The result of this experiment was that a US squad had significantly more firepower than a German squad.  Since the BAR is not really comparable to the MG-42, you have to assign the credit to the M-1 Garand.  That has stuck with me for many years.

    In Bolt Action, soldiers with Garands are allowed to conduct moving fire, but not soldiers with bolt action rifles.  I have tried to account for the differences in firepower in GAMER by enabling some weapons to fire more than one shot during an activation.  For instance, a submachine gun can fire 3 times at close range, twice at medium range, and just once at long range.  This reflects both the rate of fire and the poor likelihood of hitting multiple times with a submachine gun at long range.

    This mechanism of multiple shots still didn’t address the moving fire issue.  While I like the shoot OR move mechanism for cleanness, simplicity, and speed, I understand why players of modern periods want moving fire.  The experiment at JJ CON was only partially successful, because I took away multiple shots from the Garand but allowed moving fire with a full move.

    After that experiment, here is what I think I am going to do.  First, I realized that the penalty for moving fire (one column shift) was not punitive enough.  I have been thinking about making it a two-column shift for some time as a result of vehicle play tests.  A figure with a weapon that can fire more than once at the range to the target may instead conduct moving fire.  The number of shots will be reduced by one.  Movement distance will be reduced by two inches.  Moving fire is always conducted as move, then fire at the end point of the move.  Moving fire can be interrupted during the movement, not the firing, by a reaction roll.  I think this will give the right feel.

    JJ CON 2015

    Posted By on February 1, 2015

    JJ Con 1981

    JJ Con 1981

    In 1981 my buddy JJ had a sleepover wargaming birthday party when he turned 16.  A bunch of us got together this past weekend to celebrate with 50th birthday with a weekend of gaming.  We managed to fit in 7 miniatures games and a couple of card games in two days of non-stop gaming.

    (In the picture from 1981, most of the faces are hidden, but I will identify the faces you can see.  Most of the faces won’t be familiar to the group, and many of the faces are hidden.  Standing at the left is Mike Janes.  He was quite a bit older than us but often hosted games at his house, and he took us to our first gaming convention.  I have been trying to link up with Mike, but he has no Web presence.  Standing (and waving) in the center is me.  Seated below me is Matt Stone.  We have all lost touch with Matt.  To the left of Matt, seated, is Mark Lauzon.  Standing at the top right, with just half his face visible and the other half behind the Elton John glasses, is JJ.  Other folks who are probably in the picture but I cannot identify are John Bice, David Dziadziola, Jeff Dziadziola, and Steve Jarosz.)

    Attendees of JJ Con 2015

    Attendees of JJ Con 2015

    From left to right, Nick, Dave, Jimmy, Rick, Mark, JJ (the birthday boy), Duncan, Eric, and David (aka Ook).  I took the picture.

    The Beer and Pretzels Ironclad game in progress

    The Beer and Pretzels Ironclad game in progress

    We began the weekend, according to time-honored tradition, with a large Beer and Pretzels Ironclads game.  The Rebs got spanked by the Yanks, having lost most of our larger ships.

    A chariot race in progress using Roman Circus rules

    A chariot race in progress using Roman Circus rules

    Our second game was a 2-1/2 lap chariot race using the rules Roman Circus.  Nick won the game easily, having come from behind.

    Red Dragon Inn in progress

    Red Dragon Inn in progress

    While I was setting up the next game, most of the guys played Red Dragon Inn.

    Beginning the GAMER WWII Retrograde Scenario

    Beginning the GAMER WWII Retrograde Scenario

    I ran a WWII GAMER scenario, which involved the heavily outnumbered Germans attempting to delay the advancing Americans.  The Americans had to get at least 10 figures off the table by the end of the 15th turn.

    Americans advancing with a Stuart light tank

    Americans advancing with a Stuart light tank

    Retrograde missions are hard, but the Germans eeked out a victory, because the Americans only got five figures off the table by the end of turn 15.  Another five figures were close — but no cigar.

    Duncan's War of 1812 raid scenario using GAMER

    Duncan's War of 1812 raid scenario using GAMER

    We set up Duncan’s game for the next morning and then went to bed.  Early Saturday morning we played a reprise of Duncan’s War of 1812 GAMER scenario from Christmas.  The Americans raided a British encampment.  Initially the Brits were outnumbered two to now, but Duncan and I each had a squad of reinforcements that arrived in time to turn the tide of the battle.  It was declared a clear British victory.

    Several groups of Americans begin held back by Eric's Brits

    Several groups of Americans begin held back by Eric's Brits

    The game was quite fun.  Playing a second game with the same rules (GAMER) was good, because it was easier for many of the folks who only game once a year (or even less frequently) during JJ CON.

    A long shot of Orc's Drift

    A long shot of Orc's Drift

    After Duncan’s War of 1812 game, Eric ran his Orc’s Drift fantasy game using GASLIGHT.  It was a tense, hard-fought battle, but in the end the good guys were able to withstand the assaults of the misunderstood bad guys.

    The bad guys advance on Orc's Drift

    The bad guys advance on Orc's Drift

    We cleaned up Orc’s Drift and played another chariot race.

    A second Roman Circus chariot race game

    A second Roman Circus chariot race game

    We even got JJ's wife, Karen, to participate in the second chariot race

    We even got JJ's wife, Karen, to participate in the second chariot race

    I was set to win the second chariot race, but my last movement roll was dismal and I barely made it across the finish line.  Dave came from second place to win.

    Who IS that studly guy?!

    Who IS that studly guy?!

    Our final miniatures game of the weekend was a thrown-together X-Wing scenario.

    A long shot of my thrown together X-Wing game

    A long shot of my thrown together X-Wing game

    The rebels were attacking to knock out the three laser turrets on the surface of an Imperial station.  This was the first time I had used the laser turrets, and I think they worked well.

    TIE Fighters defending a laser turret

    TIE Fighters defending a laser turret

    The rebels knocked out one turret and damaged the other two, but they did not achieve their objective of knocking out all three.

    After we cleaned up, it was about 10:30, so we elected to start a “short” game of Nuclear War (by Flying Buffalo).  The game dragged on until after 1:30 in the morning, so none of us got much sleep.

    All in all, it was a good weekend of gaming, laughing, and fun.

    Recently Painted Figures

    Posted By on January 29, 2015

    Police from the RAFM Call of Cthulu range

    Police from the RAFM Call of Cthulu range

    As I continue to await the arrival of my 28mm Winter War figures from the Kickstarter campaign, I have been clearing out various odds and ends from my unpainted lead box.  Last weekend I found these pulp figures and knocked them out.  It was fun to paint a few one-0ff figures instead of a larger project for a change of pace.

    Household staff from the RAFM Call of Cthulu range

    Household staff from the RAFM Call of Cthulu range

    Dangerous dames

    Dangerous dames from various Pulp Figures sets

    Two "scientists" from the Steve Jackson giant ant set

    Two "scientists" from the Steve Jackson giant ant set

    I love this guy holding the brain in his hand.

    Three figures from the RAFM Call of Cthulu range

    Three figures from the RAFM Call of Cthulu range

    Sleeping cowboy

    Sleeping cowboy

    I have no idea who made this cowboy figure, but I like it.  It was a flea market find.

    Duck!

    Duck!

    When I was running my Tunnels and Troll campaign as a cadet, I made a typo in the description of one of the rooms.  I meant to say “guard” but instead said “gurad.”  From then on, these armored ducks who patrolled the halls of The Dungeon of the Athelfrog were known as Gurads.  You actually had to pass a saving roll the first time you saw one or you would fall on the floor in a spasm of incapacitating laughter.

    A heavily armed duck

    A heavily armed duck

    I have no idea who manufactured this figure.  A buddy found it in a flea market bin many years ago.  It has been languishing in my unpainted lead box, because I had designs on making a mold and creating a full unit.  I finally abandoned that idea and painted it.  Does anyone know who made this figure?

    Some Light Painting this Saturday

    Posted By on January 25, 2015

    Steve Jackson giant ants attack

    Steve Jackson giant ants attack

    As I have been recovering from knee surgery, I haven’t been too productive in terms of hobby painting.  As I began to feel better I found a small box of unpainted figures I had forgotten about — a mishmash of things that went into a box during our last move.  In addition, I prepped and painted six giant ants from a short-lived line of figures from Steve Jackson Games that Don Hogge found while cleaning out his basement.

    First batch of Old Glory robots

    First batch of Old Glory robots

    One of the items I found was a bag of Old Glory figures from my last subscription to the Old Glory Army.  These were “make your own robots.”  They came with ten torsos and lots of legs and heads.

    Second batch of Old Glory robots

    Second batch of Old Glory robots

    I had a rough night last night trying to sleep.  After a few Aleve, I was finally able to get some sleep.  When I woke this morning, I wasn’t in the mood for any detail painting, so I just dry brushed the ants.  I also mostly dry brushed the robots and then painted in a few details here and there.

    Third batch of Old Glory robots

    Third batch of Old Glory robots

    The robots from Old Glory are pretty nice figures, but my camera pictures don’t really do them justice.

    First Play Test of the Pterodactyl Game

    Posted By on January 24, 2015

    The "bomber" in its starting position

    The "bomber" in its starting position

    Last night would have been a Traveller night for those in the HAWKs participating in Eric’s campaign, but not enough players could make it, so Eric suggested that I host a game at my house.  I recently had knee surgery and am still not too mobile.  We pulled together a couple of folks at the last minute, and I hosted the game.

    The German side setup

    The German side setup

    The objective of the game was for the pterodactyl “bomber” to get across the table.  It had limited mobility and had to weave back and forth across the table to avoid stressing the pilot.

    A group of Brits on Griffons in their starting positions

    A group of Brits on Griffons in their starting positions

    I used a very slightly modified version of X-Wing for this game.  I found a site that let be build tailored order dials and another to build the pilot / ship cards.

    The fur ball begins

    The fur ball begins

    I placed a few mountains on the table to add a little interest to the table and a few obstacles around which to fly.  It turned out that the “bomber” got too close to one of the mountains while trying to avoid the onrushing griffons and eagles and took some damage.

    The beginning of the game

    The beginning of the game

    The action builds

    The action builds

    While the “bomber” could sustain twelve hits, that wasn’t enough.  An American with a Garand did the last point of damage, and the pterodactyl fell screeching between two mountains.

    The griffons swoop toward the giant pterodactyl

    The griffons swoop toward the giant pterodactyl

    I think the sides were pretty evenly matched.  The Germans had slightly better pilots and several auto cannons that were big killers.  The Allies had numbers on their side, and even the Brits with their bolt-action rifles were able to get in a hit or two.  Very little tinkering is necessary to be able to run this game at Cold Wars 2015.  I made some mistakes on the German pilot / ship cards that I will correct.

    Dials for Dinosaurs

    Posted By on January 21, 2015

    Brits closing in on the "bomber," which is defended by a couple of German "fighters"

    Brits closing in on the "bomber," which is defended by a couple of German "fighters"

    In a previous post I showed pictures of my recently completed Griffons, American Eagles, and Stukasauruses for my Cold Wars Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, USAAF, and RAF game.  I mentioned that I intended to use a slightly modified version of X-Wing for the game.  I found a cool site that allow you to make custom movement dials.  From that site, I made these:

    Dial for Giant Pterodactyl "Bomber"

    Dial for Giant Pterodactyl "Bomber"

    Dial for German Infantry Riding on Stukasauruses

    Dial for German Infantry Riding on Stukasauruses

    Dials for American Infantry Riding on Giant Eagles

    Dial for American Infantry Riding on Giant Eagles

    Dial for British Infantry Riding on Griffons

    Dial for British Infantry Riding on Griffons

    I plan to print them on card stock and find some fasteners that will allow them to spin.  They should be good enough for one or play tests and the convention game.

    I found another site that lets you build the ship/pilot cards, but a lot of the words are in French.  Hopefully I’ll find a similar site in English before long.  Otherwise, I’ll have to make up cards myself — which shouldn’t be too hard.

     

    Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, USAAF, and RAF

    Posted By on January 18, 2015

    Despite recent knee surgery that had me flat on my back for a couple of days this week, I have managed to finish up some projects that have been in progress for a couple of months.  I finished the last 80 of my 10mm fantasy figures!  But this post is about my upcoming Cold Wars 2015 Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, USAAF, and RAF game.

    Brits on Griffons

    Brits on Griffons

    In previous posts I showed pictures of the Eureaka German “Stukasauruses” and the Americans riding on giant eagles.  To go along with those forces, I wanted to put together a squad of British infantry riding on griffons.  Once again, Major Objective games came through with custom assembled and painted Brits.  The griffons were from Reaper Bones.  I used those griffons, because the plastic material from which they are molded makes it very easy to cut off the bases to make them look like they were flying.

    Close up of some Brits on Griffons

    Close up of some Brits on Griffons

    GW style flight stands are pretty expensive.  I bought a bunch of 1/8″ clear plastic rod from an on-line hobby site and cut it into two-inch lengths.  I bought two-inch diameter MDF disks from the guy at the HMGS East conventions who sells self-serve Chinese takeout boxes full of bases.  A little work with a drill put correctly-sized holes in the bases and griffons.

    The fur ball around the "bomber"

    The fur ball around the "bomber"

    In this picture you can see the American on giant eagles (left) chasing the giant pterodactyl “bomber,” Brits on griffons (right) attacking the bomber from the front, and the German Stukasaurus (center)  ”fighter escort.”

    A close up of the "bomber"

    A close up of the "bomber"

    You can see the control levers and the turret I made to fit on the “bomber.”  The turret can rotate.

    Aaaaaaah!

    Aaaaaaah!

    When I run this game at Cold Wars, I plan to use a slightly modified version of X-Wing.  I think the pterodactyl will have the stats of the Princess Leah shuttle, including the range-five weapon.

    The "bridge" of the "bomber"

    The "bridge" of the "bomber"

     

    Brits on Griffons

    Last view of Brits on griffons

    More 10mm Fantasy Figures and a Tank

    Posted By on January 12, 2015

    A Victorian Science Fiction Style Tank

    A Victorian Science Fiction Style Tank

    Last weekend I spent most of Saturday helping the software folks on a First Robotics Team.  I still managed to get a little painting done on Sunday.  I am still banging away at trying to clear all the 10mm fantasy figures out of my unpainted lead pile.  Along the way, however, I also finally decided to paint this tank gray.  It has been sitting on my painting table for months waiting for me to decide.

    Pendraken Dwarfs with Crossbows

    Pendraken Dwarfs with Crossbows

    I worked to knock out the few remaining Pendraken figures I had left from a batch Chris acquired from Ebay.  The figures seem a little large for 10mm, but they are good enough looking dwarfs for my tastes in fantasy figures.  (After all, how realistic to fantasy figures need to be?!)

    Pendraken Dwarf Knights

    Pendraken Dwarf Knights

    Heavily armored and armed dwarf knights?  How slow do you think these guys are going to be on the table.  Find a place you want defended and concentrate on other units.

    Pendraken Dwarfs with Spears

    Pendraken Dwarfs with Spears

    Some of these spears are a bit flimsy.  I lost one just popping them off the popsicle sticks I use for painting.  After a couple of games, they might become angry geriatric dwarfs with canes.

    Pendraken Orc Berserkers

    Pendraken Orc Berserkers

    I don’t know what these figures are really supposed to be, but I decided to paint them in garish colors and call them orc berserkers.

    A GW Giant

    A GW Giant

    I still want to add a little landscaping to this base, but I like the way he turned out.

    Dwarfs with Chain Type Maces (aka Morning Stars)

    Pendraken Dwarfs with Chain Type Maces (aka Morning Stars)

    I’m not sure when these forces will see action — or if they’ll see action — before our large Bear Yourselves Valiantly game at Cold Wars 2015 in March